Innovative technology

The Main Event

Mains cleaning techniques

Northumbrian Water has an excellent reputation and we are continually looking to improve the services we provide to ensure high levels of customer satisfaction.

After successfully trialling the use of ice to clean our large water pipes, we have fully adopted this innovative technology as part of this programme so that we can provide our customers with an excellent quality product.

A section of pipe is isolated by turning off valves at each end of the length of pipe to be cleaned. A bit of water is emptied out to make room for slushy ice which is injected into the pipe. The valves are then reopened enabling the water to start flowing again. The pressure of water on either side of the slush compacts the ice and it scrapes the sediment off the pipe walls. The dirty ice is then flushed from the water pipe and the water is sampled and put back into supply.

Using ice is much quicker as we don’t have to empty the section of pipe we are cleaning, and refill it, as with other cleaning methods. The holes we dig to access water pipes, to enable the cleaning, are much smaller. Both of these benefits result in less disruption to our customers.

It usually takes us up to three weeks to clean a two-kilometre section of pipe using ‘pressure jetting’, it takes just a few hours to clean the same amount of pipe using ice. As well as being more cost effective, the process also uses less water than other types of cleaning so it is more environmentally friendly.

We are very pleased with the results of the trial and believe this will revolutionise the way we clean our large water pipes in the future. We will be using this technique to clean around 75 kilometres of pipe as part of ‘The Main Event’.

Mains cleaning techniques

Before isolating and cleaning a section of pipe, water will be moved around the network to maintain your water supply. The section of pipe will then be emptied, cleaned, refilled and disinfected. Water quality samples and pressure tests will be completed before the water main is put back into service.

The technique chosen to clean a section of pipe will depend on what the pipe is made of, its lining and its location (urban or rural).

A tough giant sponge is pushed through the pipe to remove sediment.

Pressure jetting
High pressure jets of water remove sediment from the inside wall of the pipe.

Scraping and lining
Spring-loaded metal blades are pushed or pulled through the pipe to remove sediment and a new lining is applied.

Ice pigging (new technique)
Slush-like ice is injected into the pipe from a tanker and cleans the pipe by scraping the harmless sediment off the pipe walls.

What should I do if my water supply is discoloured as a result of this work?

Discoloured water is not harmful to health. You should run the first mains-fed tap in your house at a normal rate for up to 30 minutes. Metered customers who experience discoloured water as a result of this work should ring our customer centre on 0845 717 1100, as you may be given an allowance on your bill.

Will it be safe to use appliances like my washing machine and dishwasher if my water is discoloured?

Washing machines and dishwashers should only be used if your water supply is running clear.

Will I be notified if my water supply is to be turned off?

We will notify you of any planned interruptions to your water supply.

What do I do if someone needs special assistance, for example, a water supply is needed medical or nursing purposes?

Please contact our customer centre, on 0345 717 1100, and we will make arrangements to help you. Click here for more information.

How will the work affect my business?

If you are a commercial customer and water is essential, please contact us as soon as possible so the best practical arrangements can be made.

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